A few months ago I came to realize that I was in a certain type of funk with my writing. Despite planning the wedding and using lame excuses as to why I wasn’t writing everyday like I should, I recognized that on some evenings just sitting down with a notebook to put a few words on paper was becoming the more challenging task. I wasn’t sure why this was. As usual, I was obsessively thinking about my plot, my characters and little points my storyline needed to follow. I could open my eyes and see my characters and their predicaments in everything around me. I could have full length conversations with myself and my characters (and in their respective accents), yet still when I sat down at night with that notebook, I was lucky if I managed two worthwhile sentences. It was becoming a little depressing. I have already officially put 4 years into this novel. At 150,000 words, I would say I’m a good 70% finished, not to mention the long edit I will face after I write that final “The End”. Sometimes it is hard to stay focused, much less motivated on a story you know is a monster from the moment you write the outline, and to stay inspired after it becomes clear early on that the story will not be written within the one-year time frame you originally gave yourself.
Perhaps the real question is what does one do when one finds oneself in such a rut? Write some dirty smut!
(Am I channeling Dr. Seuss today?)
That’s right! Erotica. Seriously. I kicked around this idea last summer to write something to get myself out of the rut I was in. (The rut has seriously kicked my butt) I’ve always had a healthy respect for erotica. One of my besties is a successful erotica writer, I devoured Anne Rice’s Beauty Chronicles when I was in my 20s and will read any kind of erotica that is well written and doesn’t sound like it’s narrated by a 13 year old. So, why not try my hand at it?
When I first started it last summer, I barely completed the first chapter – a chapter that was about as vanilla as could be. And then, I lost my motivation for that too. I felt like I couldn’t complete it and I had failed at another goal. I recognize that my problem was I tried to write it on the computer. And that was my first mistake. My M.O. with writing over the last several years has been by hand. If you put me in front of a keyboard, I practically become deaf, dumb and blind. I mindlessly stare at the screen and obsess over every word I type. But put a thick journal and a black, medium tip ball point pen in front of me and I’ll write until my hand cramps. I knew that about myself last summer, but instead of focusing on the solution, I thought I’d soldier on and keep at computer writing. Boy, was I wrong.
Flash forward to about three weeks ago. I realized I needed to stop making excuses and get the rut out of my butt. But I was still making excuses not to get started back on the Scottish novel. I still had erotica in the back of my mind. I was reeling with some new story ideas based on the American Revolution and had been brainstorming an idea for an anthology publication this year. I had a lot on my plate and felt I didn’t know where to get started. And finally the answer hit me. Why not do all of them?
I’ve been suffering a lament for several years that I can’t start a new story until I get the current one finished – especially a full length story that could take a year of my time. I think that was my first mistake. After all, everyone will tell you to get yourself out of a rut you must try something new. So I did. I got myself a calendar and decided I’ll work on 3 stories simultaneously and pre-designate days on my calendar to work on a specific story. And stick with it! Amazingly enough, this did the trick. I’m working on 3 stories right now: the Scottish novel, the erotica and a short story about a mermaid. I was so pleasantly surprised to see this is working for me. After all, this is kinda how I had to do it in college. Focusing on one story gives me a certain motivation to get a lot of sentences on paper, knowing that it might be a good three days before I return to that story again. It allows me to put all of my thoughts and day dreaming into that story during the day and understand what I need to write that night. For some, that might be maddening, but for me it was the breakthrough. My first week of doing it that way, I wrote a total of 10,000 words. The second week, I hit the ballpark around 8k (it was St. Paddy’s day last week. I had to catch up on my drinking after all J ).
In a way, I feel I’m back. Granted, I’m only about 3 weeks into this experiment, but I definitely feel positive about it. I’m desperate for a little new material in my repertoire. I’ve just about published every short story I’ve written over the last 8 years and I need to keep the momentum going. Speaking of which, I actually have one new publication that I somehow forgot about in the wedding bustle. I was featured in the January 2015 edition of the Linden Avenue Literary Journal for The Sanctimonious Lament of the Cake and Punch Girl. I have to give them props for actually getting the title correct. Not to put down Caffeine Presse, but they really wreaked havoc on my OCD. So, enjoy, perhaps again.
In the meantime, keep writing, keep reading and as always, Sláinte!